The first computer printer designed was a mechanically driven apparatus by Charles Babbage for his difference engine in the 19th century; however, his mechanical printer design was not built until 2000.
The first patented printing mechanism for applying a marking medium to a recording medium or more particularly, to an electrostatic inking apparatus and a method for electrostatically depositing in on controlled areas of a receiving medium was in 1962 by C.R Winston, Teletype, Corporation using continuous inkjet printing. The ink was a red stamp pad ink manufactured by Phillips Process Company of Rochester, NY under the name Clear Print. This patent (US3060429) led to the Teletype Inktronic Printer product delivered to customers in late 1966.
The first electronic printer was the EP-101, invented by Japanese company Epson and released in 1968.
The first commercial printers generally used mechanisms from electric typewriters and Teletype machines. The demand for higher speed led to the development of new systems specifically for computer use. In the 1980s there were daisy wheel systems similar to typewriters, line printers that produced similar output but at much higher speed, and dot matrix systems that could mix text and graphics but produced relatively low-quality output. The plotter was used for those requiring high quality line art like blueprints.
The introduction of the low-cost laser printer in 1984 with the first HP LaserJet, and the addition of PostScript in next year's Apple LaserWriter, set off a revolution in printing known as desktop publishing. Laser printers using PostScript mixed text and graphics, like dot-matrix printers, but at quality levels formerly available only from commercial typesetting systems. By 1990, most simple printing tasks like fliers and brochures were now created on personal computers and then laser printed; expensive offset printing systems were being dumped as scrap. The HP Deskjet of 1988 offered the same advantages as a laser printer in terms of flexibility, but produced somewhat lower quality output (depending on the paper) from much less expensive mechanisms. Inkjet systems rapidly displaced dot matrix and daisy wheel printers from the market. By the 2000s high-quality printers of this sort had fallen under the $100 price point and became commonplace.
The rapid update of internet email through the 1990s and into the 2000s has largely displaced the need for printing as a means of moving documents, and a wide variety of reliable storage systems means that a "physical backup" is of little benefit today.
Starting around 2010, 3D printing became an area of intense interest, allowing the creation of physical objects with the same sort of effort as an early laser printer required to produce a brochure. These devices are in their earliest stages of development and have not yet become commonplace.In computing, a printer is a peripheral machine which makes a persistent representation of graphics or text, usually on paper. While most output is human-readable, bar code printers are an example of an expanded use for printers.Different types of printers include 3D printers, inkjet printers, laser printers, and thermal printers.
Personal printers are primarily designed to support individual users, and may be connected to only a single computer. These printers are designed for low-volume, short-turnaround print jobs, requiring minimal setup time to produce a hard copy of a given document. However, they are generally slow devices ranging from 6 to around 25 pages per minute (ppm), and the cost per page is relatively high. However, this is offset by the on-demand convenience. Some printers can print documents stored on memory cards or from digital cameras and scanners.
Networked or shared printers are "designed for high-volume, high-speed printing". They are usually shared by many users on a network and can print at speeds of 45 to around 100 ppm. The Xerox 9700 could achieve 120 ppm.
A virtual printer is a piece of computer software whose user interface and API resembles that of a printer driver, but which is not connected with a physical computer printer. A virtual printer can be used to create a file which is an image of the data which would be printed, for archival purposes or as input to another program, for example to create a PDF or to transmit to another system or user.
A barcode printer is a computer peripheral for printing barcode labels or tags that can be attached to, or printed directly on, physical objects. Barcode printers are commonly used to label cartons before shipment, or to label retail items with UPCs or EANs.
A 3D printer is a device for making a three-dimensional object from a 3D model or other electronic data source through additive processes in which successive layers of material (including plastics, metals, food, cement, wood, and other materials) are laid down under computer control. It is called a printer by analogy with an inkjet printer which produces a two-dimensional document by a similar process of depositing a layer of ink on paper.
The choice of print technology has a great effect on the cost of the printer and cost of operation, speed, quality and permanence of documents, and noise. Some printer technologies do not work with certain types of physical media, such as carbon paper or transparencies.
A second aspect of printer technology that is often forgotten is resistance to alteration: liquid ink, such as from an inkjet head or fabric ribbon, becomes absorbed by the paper fibers, so documents printed with liquid ink are more difficult to alter than documents printed with toner or solid inks, which do not penetrate below the paper surface.
Cheques can be printed with liquid ink or on special cheque paper with toner anchorage so that alterations may be detected. The machine-readable lower portion of a cheque must be printed using MICR toner or ink. Banks and other clearing houses employ automation equipment that relies on the magnetic flux from these specially printed characters to function properly.